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New Year (2014) Welcome Message from ASOR President Susan Ackerman

About two weeks ago, on January 1, 2014, I began my tenure as ASOR’s new president. I ackerman-head-shotam extremely honored to have been asked to serve ASOR in this capacity, and I am grateful to the Officers’ Nominating Committee, to the Board of Trustees, and to all of you for placing your confidence in me and for offering me your support.

I also feel extremely fortunate, as I come to the ASOR presidency at what is surely one of the great moments in our organization’s history. Our most recent annual meeting, in November 2013 in Baltimore, was our largest ever, with a record-setting 928 total registrants. In 2013, we also gave 55 summer field scholarships and excavation grants, another record-setting number. Our publications program, too, celebrated several important milestones in 2013: for example, the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research debuted a striking new format and cover design, and the Journal of Cuneiform Studies published a gala sixty-fifth anniversary issue. In 2013 as well, we launched several exciting initiatives and introduced several new resources. We began a new outreach program, “Friends of ASOR,” and with the support of the Lanier Theological Library and Stevan Dana, we started a new e-zine geared to the public, The Ancient Near East Today. In addition, thanks to several gifts from the Kershaw Family Trust, we created the member newsletter that you are reading right now, News@ASOR.

Other new on-line resources include our YouTube channel, ASORtv; our “Women at ASOR Resource Map”; and the opportunity to sign up for JPASS for members who otherwise lack access to the archival collections available through JSTOR. Moreover, we accomplished all this without breaking the bank: indeed, we ended the most recent fiscal year (FY 2013) with a surplus. In addition, as you will see elsewhere in this newsletter, ASOR has just received a significant new gift to our “Building a Foundation for ASOR Campaign,” which comes in addition to major gifts we received in 2013: a major legacy gift of $475,000 and the “P.E. MacAllister Endowed Scholarship Fund,” with a current market value of $110,000.

So, what president would not feel fortunate, to have the opportunity to head a thriving organization that is on such sound financial footing? Still, however notable the accomplishments and strengths of ASOR that I have outlined above, our greatest strength is, as always, you: our members. Your numbers, incidentally, are also at an all-time high – we’re almost 1600 strong. And while it’s probably too much for me to hope that I will get to know all of you during the term of my presidency, I do hope to get to know many more of you than I do already, and I hope to get to know you beyond an exchange of a handshake and just saying “hi.” Our members care deeply about ASOR and are full of insights and wisdom about how it can be the best it can possibly be. I am eager to hear your advice, as are my ASOR colleagues who have also been entrusted with positions of leadership: ASOR’s Executive Director (Andy Vaughn), the Chair of our Board of Trustees (B.W. Ruffner), and ASOR’s other officers (Vice-President Sharon Herbert, Secretary Lynn Swartz Dodd, and Treasurer Richard Coffman).

Finally, as I think about you, I’d like to thank you for all you do for ASOR. Even though I’ve occupied my presidential vantage point for only two weeks, I’ve already been astonished at the vibrancy of our committee system and how very, very hard our committee chairs and committee members work on ASOR’s behalf. It’s also astonishing how generous you are not just with your time, but with your money: about 20% of our members give charitable contributions to ASOR over and above their annual dues (see FY13 development report), which is a participation rate that most organizations like ours can only dream of. Again, for me, what is indicated here is how deeply ASOR’s members care about our organization and how invested you are in ASOR’s well-being. Having a community like ours to draw on is, for me as president, and for the organization’s other leaders, an asset of inestimable value.

So, I close as I began: I am honored to have been chosen to lead such a vibrant and on-the-move organization, and I feel extremely fortunate to have taken office at a moment when ASOR is in a position of such incredible strength. It’s with great enthusiasm, then, that I look forward to the next three years and to ASOR’s continued success.

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